The Importance of Semantics
It is Pride month and despite the global pandemic and the great work that is being done to combat racial inequality, it is important to take the time to celebrate the LGBTQI community, as they have worked so hard to get where they are today. Pride month differs incredibly based on location, with some (pre-pandemic) places attracting millions of visitors to have huge Pride festivals and parades and others not even having the basic laws to protect LGBTQI rights. As a result, the objective of Pride varies upon location from promoting acceptance, legal rights (including the right to same sex marriage and anti-discrimination laws) and simply celebrating the fabulousness that is the LGBTQI community.
A component of being a true ally is to educate yourself. The majority of folks know terms such as gay, straight, bisexual and transsexual, some people may not know less common terms that more and more folks are adopting as of late.
Broadly, the terms in the calendar either refer to how a person identifies or who they are romantically and sexually attracted to. Let’s start with going through some terms for attraction.
Pansexuals are attracted to all genders and sexes, however polysexuals are attracted to some genders and sexes, but not all of them. For example, a polysexual may be attracted to non-binary folk, queer folks and women, but not men, whereas a pansexual is open to all identities. An interesting term I just learned is Sholiosexual, which means that a person is attracted to non-binary folks, but not those that identify within the binary of male or female.
There are also demisexuals, who only experience sexual attraction once they have a close emotional connection with someone. These folks are less likely to engage in one night stands, and prefer to first get to know someone before it gets sexy. However, the term demisexual doesn’t necessarily speak to the type of person they are attracted to. For example, a polysexual demisexual would open to being attracted to all genders, however only once they have developed a close emotional bond.
There are also a lot of people who don’t experience sexual attraction at all, who are called asexuals (or belonging to the ace community). I had a fascinating conversation with an asexual about masturbation. I asked her if she engaged in self-lovin and she said that she did, however instead of thinking about a specific person or situation she would just think about the sensations. There are also grey ace folk, who experience some sexual desire, but a have a super low sex drive. People who are Asexuals or grey aces may have romantic relationships, but usually relationships don’t involve too much sexuality.
In the ace community there are a number of terms used to describe the type of romantic relationships folks seek, regardless of their sexual attraction or lack thereof. Homoromatic folks are romantically attracted to people of the same sex, biromantic folks are open to romantic relationships with two or more genders, panromatic people are romantically open to all gender identities and aromatic folks are not romantically attracted to anyone, regardless of their sexual attractions.
Rather than relating to who you are attracted to, there are also terms regarding how one identifies. For example, Agender folks feel like they don’t have a gender. However, this does not explain who they are attracted to. Similarly, gender fluid folks identify as having a gender which can vary over time, depending on how they feel. It is important to check in with gender fluid folks about how they identify at any one time to not accidentally misgender them. There are also folks who identify as either bigender or trigender, which as it sounds, mean that they identify with two or three genders. If three genders doesn’t suffice, there are also folks who are pangender, which is a non-bianary gender identity where a person feels that they occupy a multiplicity of genders.
Another interesting term that is similar to a non-binary identity is gender queer.
The same way queer folks may not align with heterosexual or homosexual gender attractions, gender queer folk don’t identify with the male or female gender, and instead either identity with neither gender, both genders, or a combination of both genders.
There are also Demigirls and Demiboys. A demigirl identifies at partially female and a demiboy identifies as partially male, regardless of what biological sex they were born as and who they are attracted to.
Androgyny is also a common term, which is when someone has a combo of male and female characteristics, which are somewhat ambiguous. To further confuse things, androgyny can either been used as related to ones biological sex or gender identity. For example, if someone was biologically androgynous, they may also be intersex, meaning they were born with both masculine and feminine biological traits. However, if someone is androgynous in terms of gender identity, they may also relate to the terms non-binary or gender queer and not relate to their biological sex.
I know I just hit you with a lot of potentially new and confusing terms. Educating yourself about the terminology is an important step towards allyship. However, what is even more important is to not make assumptions when interacting with a new person and to treat everybody equally regardless of how they identify or who they are attracted to.